Berezovsky and Georgia
Georgy Kalatozishvili, Tbilisi. Exclusively to Vestnik Kavkaza
With the death of Boris Berezovsky, the epoch of the 1990s ended in the post-Soviet region in a historic and mental sense. As Georgia remains a part of this area and Berezovsky was connected with it, it would be interesting to recall Georgian stories of this prominent man’s life.
The main thread connecting Berezovsky and Georgia was Badri Patarkatsishvili – his close partner, supporter, and friend. But why was it Badri? Were there so few smart businessmen in Moscow and people from other “sunny” and not so sunny republics in the huge country in the end of the 1980s? They both belonged to one community, but Berezovsky also had the psychology of Soviet intellectuals and was captured by “the Georgian myth.” Georgia was a land of Covenant for Moscow intellectuals of the Soviet epoch, where communist restrictions had no power, where a go-ahead man felt free, and party functionaries “lived in peace and didn’t bother others.” Georgia was a country of miracles where any business could be implemented.
It was not a coincidence that the first joint project of Berezovsky and Patarkatsishvili was the re-export of Logovaz cars through Georgia. Badri used his Komsomol contacts and managed to approach “the head of the Georgian state”, as they called the position of Eduard Shevardnadze. Thus, Georgia was directly connected with “initial capital” of Berezovsky. So, it is not a surprise that personal friendship between business partners led to boundless trust between Boris and Badri. Berezovsky registered a significant part of his assets on the friend’s mane and didn’t think that this practice will lead to tragic consequences.
However, ahead of Putin’s epoch there was a period of life when Berezovsky was the deputy secretary of the Security Council of Russia and visited Georgia repeatedly, trying to settle the irrepressible Abkhazian dilemma. In summer 1997 Boris Berezovsky flew from Tbilisi to Abkhazia to convince President Ardzinba to sign a protocol on return of Georgian refugees and establishing a common federative state together with Georgia. He was escorted by Badri Patarkatsishvili, the chairman of the parliament Zurab Zhvania, and Georgian journalists. Of course, the talks led to nothing. Ardzinba didn’t stay alone with the deputy secretary of the Russian SC and held talks in the presence of dozens of people – ministries, MPs of Abkhazia, and important social activists. It seems the smartest politician Ardzinba was afraid that the talks with the tandem of Boris-Badri could cause bad rumors.
And the negotiations caused the rumors, but not in Abkhazia – in Tbilisi: after Berezovsky’s return President Shevardnadze said that Boris offered the Abkhazian authorities investment into the resort area about $200 million.
Ahead of this episode, there was an incident in the Abkhazian town of Gudauta where the major airport of Abkhazia was situated took place. After the negotiations Berezovsky and the whole delegation were invited to Nikita Khrushchev’s summer cottage. During the dinner Vladislav Ardzinba made a joke that one of guests had “a lot of money.” Berezovsky seriously replied: “One cannot have too much money.” Everybody laughed. Then, the guests headed to the airport to fly to Tbilisi. Suddenly they noticed a combat vehicle on the takeoff runway. The guests of Abkhazia got a fright – what had happened? The deputy secretor of the Security Council of Russia talked to a major of Air Landing Troops. He said seriously: “Boris Abramovich, Rostov doesn’t permit the flight; navigation services should be paid up.” Berezovsky delegated settlement of the issue to Badri: “Badri, do something.” Patarkatsishvili took a wallet, quickly “settled” the problem, and the airplane departure.
Of course, Berezovsky and Patarkatsishvili couldn’t settle the Abkhazian problem. “He is not almighty,” Shevardnadze said at one of press conferences. However, Berezovsky was a frequent guest of Tbilisi.
When Vladimir Putin came in office in Russia, Badri Patarkatsishvili returned to the motherland and stepped into the local political stage. Of course, he tried to turn the whole country into a “calm bay” not only for himself, but also to the joint with Berezovsky business. But Georgia and its economy appeared to be too small for such a grand goal. Nevertheless, Berezovsky re-registered a significant part of his assets on Patarkatsishvili. And Badri suddenly made a huge mistake – he tried to protect the common capital, establishing alternatives of Mikhail Saakashvili’s power. At first, the relations were almost perfect: Patarkatsishvili didn’t hide that he sponsored “the Rose Revolution” of 2003 in accordance to his partner. In December, Berezovsky flew to Tbilisi for several hours under the name of Platon Yelenin. The relations between the tandem and revolutionists seemed to be perfect.
Nevertheless, the political ambitions of Badri and his resistance to give his favorite “child” – the TV-company of Imedi – to the ruling team led to a tough conflict, and as a result to the death of Patarkatsishvili after publication of his talk with the head of the Constitutional Security Department Erekle Kodua in the Russian mass media. The Georgian prosecution accused Patarkatsishvili of preparation of a state overthrowing.
Badri said unpleasant things about his old friend and partner, Berezovsky came to his London cottage for explanations. It was the last meeting of Boris and Badri. Patarkatsishvili died of a heart attack few hours later. Berezovsky didn’t go to his funeral in Tbilisi.